Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

‘Cooking’ in France: 100 Degrees Fahrenheit

August 4th, 2018 · No Comments · France

The French call weather like this the canicule — which pretty literally means the “dog days” of summer.

But this round of heat packs a particularly nasty bite.

France, like much of Europe, is going through what may be the hottest summer on record.

The nearest big city to where we live is Montpellier, and its record high (in Fahrenheit) was thought to be a tick under 100 degrees.

Till this week.

It seems as if the temps have broached triple digits most everywhere in France, the unwelcome crescendo to two weeks of relentless heat.

It’s not like France sits in a zone where extreme heat is expected. A very large fraction of France (90 percent, or so) lies further north than the “lower 48” U.S. states. (All of France is further north than, for example, Boston.)

During the summer, that generally translates, here in the south of France, into days with an average high in the mid-80s. Which is quite comfortable, and lures millions of people from the cooler north down to the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea.

For the past 10 days, however, temperatures north of 90 have been standard all over the country, and that word canicule has been heard day after day.

It has a definition, depending on where in France you live, and in this part of the country (43 degrees north of the equator), it is defined as at least 95 degrees in the day and never less than 75 degrees at night. That is, it never really cools off.

And for those of us without air-conditioning, which is most of France, the canicule can be nearly insufferable — draining through the day, sleep-depriving during the night.

About all you can do is close the shutters as soon as the sun comes up, and leave them shut, hoping to trap cooler night air and live in it until the sun is prepared to set — which this time of year is about 9 p.m.

You spend your days, then, sitting in the semi-dark, inside, downwind of your sad little electric fans, trying to find a bit of relief and not really getting it before 10 p.m.

It means running errands before noon and leads to towns and villages that look pretty much deserted through the long, hot afternoon and early evening.

We talked to one of our French neighbors the other day, and she was in bed, trying not to move, and was on course for three showers in a day.

(Can’t really count on cold showers when it gets this warm, because the water doesn’t get cool enough to be considered “cold”. Again, this is in non-AC locations.)

Sitting through it, day after day … well, even taking into account “recency bias”, I think the notion of global warming is now universally accepted, in France, from Corsica in the south to Calais in the north.

Comparisons have been made in France to the killer heat wave of 2003, when nearly 15,000 people, most of them elderly, died heat-related deaths from July 20 to August 20.

Government officials here do a better job, now, than they did then, by running TV spots on hydration and staying inside.

Thus, even if the current canicule is perhaps even more extreme than that of 2003, we are not hearing about a bunch of fatalities.

All the same, we will all be happy to get back to highs in the 80s — which are now expected to commence on Tuesday. Thank goodness.



0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment